Mekong Impressions

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The water buffalo swim in it, the children bathe in it, the fishermen live by it. The Mekong River is full of life. For nearly two months we traveled along Southeast Asia’s largest river.

For the first time we met the by then still calm river in the Laotian city of Luang Prabang. We drank a beer and watched the sunset on its banks. In Luang Prabang, the Mekong had already completed more than half of its path from the Tibetan highlands to the South China Sea.

Mekong in Luang Prabang

Restaurant at the banks of the Mekong in Luang Prabang

Then we split up. The Mekong made a loop to the west while we cycled straight towards the south. Only about 350 kilometers later we met again in the Laotian capital Vientiane. Here, the Mekong River bordered with Thailand. We crossed it at the first Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge. The bridge was 1170 meters long and the views were amazing. It was on the other side, in Nong Khai, where our friend Kirk took us out for a small boat tour in the middle of the river.

Mekong in Nong Khai

Short trip with Kirk’s boat in Nong Khai

In Nong Khai we parked the bikes and went to see my family who came to visit us. Together we made a tour to visit the Golden Triangle, the border area between Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. We had never been higher in the upper reaches of the river. Further down the stream the Mekong would have to flow through some canyons and rapids before it reached Luang Prabang, where we had first seen it. Opium poppies had been cultivated around the Golden Triangle and not long ago it was the biggest place for heroin and opium. Today, the production has declined significantly.

Mekong am Goldenen Dreieck.

Between three countries. View towards the Thai banks at the Golden Triangle between Thailand, laos and Myanmar.

After a while we returned to Nong Khai, where our dusty bikes had been waiting for us. We hopped on them and headed east. Every night we fell asleep in Thailand with a view towands Laos on the other side of the river. There were international markets on both sides of the Mekong and many residents on the Thai side were Lao origin.
In Phon Phisai we stayed at Poo’s beautiful house with a view to Laos. His wife Numsai was born in Laos and the children grew up with both cultures.

Abendstimmung am Mekong in Phon Phisai, Thailand

Sunset at the Mekong in Phon Phisai, Thailand

We spent the following night in a temple in Bueng Kan. From there we followed a small road that ran right along the riverside. In Ban Huai Tai Chuam we followed the signs to the two colored river. This was where the brown Mekongwaters met the green water of another river.

Zweifarbiger Mekong

Not such a big color difference in Ban Huai Chuam Tai

From Mukdahan to Savannakhet we crossed another bridge. The second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge was 1600 meters long. Quite wide. Soon we had Laotian soil under the wheels again and within minutes we adapted the vibe. We felt calm, happy and relaxed. From Savannakhet we cycled straight south towards the Cambodian border. But right before the border we stopped at the 4000 Islands. On the way there the rainy season began. The clear and blue waters of the Mekong slowly turned into brown floods. The children did not care at all. They enjoyed splashing on the shore no mater of which color it was. The women washed the laundry in the brown water and took a bath in their Sarongs, while adolescents and men paddled out to catch some fish.
Ban Nakasang was the last village on the mainland.


Pier in Ban Nakasang

Pier in Ban Nakasang

We took a boat over to the island of Don Det (pictures from Sunrise and Sunset), a beautiful place full of rice fields, guest houses and restaurants. We chatted with the local families, found a hidden swimming area in the Mekong and watched the fishermen at work. In the bays we found ruminating water buffalos. We simply ignored their dung. At about 40 ° C in the shade enjoy a swim in brown water with muddy soil.

Wasserbüffel im Mekong bei Don Det

Buffalo in the Mekong in Don Det

Sonnenaufgang überm Mekong in Don Det

Sunrise at the Mekong in Don Det

Der Mekong mal ganz klein.  Annika watet hindurch.

Mekong in its smallest form. Crossing plenty of small sand islands on the way to our perfect little bathing spotmal ganz klein.

Der Mekong früh morgens in Don Det

Early morning in Don Det

Gewitter überm Mekong in Don Det


Der Mekong schwillt zur Regenzeit an.

The mekong grows in the rainy season

Sonnenuntergang überm Mekong in Don Det

Sunset at the Mekong in Don Det

A short bridge led across to the neighboring island of Don Khone. Here we found the marvelous Somphamit waterfalls. These and the rapids near Sombor in Cambodia were the main reasons that there was so little international shipping traffic on the Mekong River. In Don Khone, we cycled through the jungle and looked out for the rare Irrawaddy Dolphins. Unfortunately we did not spot a single one. Instead, watched over the giant stream and made out the hills of the Cambodian mainland on the other side.

Mekong in Don Khon

Mekong-Canyon in Don Khone

Somphamit Wasserfälle in Don Khone

Somphamit Waterfalls in Don Khone

Sandstrand in Don Khone

Delfinbeobabchtungsplattform in Don Khone

No luck with the dolphins.

After 15 days we got back to the Laotian mainland and soon after made it to the border of Cambodia. As usual men were fishing a lot on the other side too, but fishing nets were a taboo. The few remaining dolphins got caught up in the nets too easily. In Kratie we stayed in a guesthouse not too far from the shore.

Mekong in Kratie, Cambodia

Wide river in Kratie, Cambodia.

Immer am Mekongufer entlang von Kratie bis Kampong Cham

Cycling right next to the Mekong from Kratie to Kampong Cham

From there we rode good 130 kilometers along the bank up to Kampong Cham. The paved road turned into dirt and sand soon and the children in the villages did not get to see many foreigners. They got even more excited when they saw that these weird people (we) drove bikes just as the free traders, just with tent and sleeping bags as baggage instead of goods to sell. Right behind the small town of Kroch Chmar we stopped and looked over the other side. It was quite far away.Gleich hinter Kroch Chmar auf dem Weg nach Kampong Cham

Mekong on the way to Kampong Cham, right behind Kroch Chmar.

We spent the night at the house of a girl who talked to me while Roberto stopped to take some pictures. Bunny lived in Prek Achi and she was an English teacher. Before we dumped bag and baggage, she suggested that we could go to refresh ourselves and swim in the Mekong. What a great idea! While we cooled a few children swam towards us. We answered the usual English questions (What’s your name? Where are you from? I love you!) when two men guided their cows into the water. They washed them carefully and as they finished the cows shone like after a beauty spa.

An unserem letzten Abend am Mekong schwimmen wir in Prek Achi mit den Wasserbüffeln.

Our last night with the Mekong. We swam with cows, buffalo and children in Prek Achi.

After nearly 1300 kilometers we crossed one last Mekong Bridge into Kampong Cham. Now it was time to say goodbye. The Mekong had been our faithful companion for three countries. Now it would flow Vietnam, while we rode westward across northern Cambodia and then back to Thailand.

Mekong. Kurz vor Kampong Cham

The countryside right outside of town.

We have crossed the Mekong in several boats, bathed in it, cycled on its banks, ate its fish, watched the water buffalo and experienced romantic sunrises and sunsets on its banks. And we have seen countless villages and met plenty of their inhabitants, who live in and by him.

Kizuna Brücke die hinüber nach Kampong Cham führt.

Bye Bye dear Mekong! In the middle of the Kizuna bridge that led us over to Kampong Cham.


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